Four Reasons We Join Groups, Pick Sides And Embrace Fake News

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Bias and Conformation Bias

We have all been guilty of it. When you see a story or a social media post that strikes an emotional chord, without digging deeper or questioning, you either burst in with a comment that condemns or congratulates, share it, or quietly form an opinion that sticks around for future discussions with friends, especially if your efforts will be appreciated by those who hold the same political alignment, faith or worldly views.

The question is, why do we form certain beliefs, defend them and deny anything that contradicts them?

Our beliefs and views aren’t just personal, they have a huge influence on the “tribes” we join and the views we have of others. Whether they are instilled into us from an early age or later on in life through social groups, society or the media, our views can be so entwined into our identity that they can often have us attacking the views of others without ever questioning our own.

You only need to look at those with a strong political or religious alignment to see how they truly believe their way is, or should be, the only way.

The problem is, with an abundance of conflicting information and views readily available today, we tend to have a little too much faith in our opinions; closing our minds to information that could otherwise improve our relationship and our progression as a species.

“Ever since I learnt about confirmation bias I have started seeing it everywhere.” - Jon Ronson

This is particularly dangerous when political parties, companies, media outlets or individuals use these biases to make us dance to their own agenda driven tune.

So, here we present four thinking errors you should definitely be aware of next time you read a news story or post that gives you that triggered feeling.

Confirmation bias

Have you ever had a strong belief in something that you refuse to interact or accept the views of anyone or anything that contradicts that belief? This is confirmation bias. For example, if your views are heavily towards the left side of the political spectrum, you may instantly reject views and ideas from those on the right and vice versa, even if their views are more accurate. You might blatantly refuse to listen to any other view other than your own.

This bias towards their own beliefs can leave an individual with such a one sided view they can permanently shut off alternative ideas whilst enthusiastically sharing news and opinions, both fake and real that supports their beliefs.

Confirmation bias can have such a strong hold over us, it can be  used effectively by anyone who wishes to manipulate us into performing tasks or behaving in a way that benefits their cause or agenda.

Groupthink

Groupthink is the psychological effect that stops us from spilling out personal views that may be controversial or alternative to our group, all for the sake of minimising conflict.

Groupthink tends to leave individuals within a group with a reduced sense of uniqueness, creativity and independence. It can also leave negative or inaccurate beliefs of a group unchallenged and therefore reinforced.

Group attribution error

When watching the news covering a certain event, have you ever noticed an undesirable person being used as a representative for an entire group? This often happens when the group is one the media outlet opposes.

Alternatively, have you ever heard a group or individual be labelled in a way that makes them look terrible even though they have done nothing to suggest that is true? This is group attribution error being used against you. It is simply an attribution error we make assuming that a person's characteristics are representative of the whole group.

Social Conformity

Whether we like to admit or not, all of us in some way conform. We may think it is just our close friends or society the influence us, but many times we conform to the ways of strangers. Two variables of conformity can be informational conformity, where we are convinced the group is right, then we  have normative conformity where we feel the group will disapprove if we deviate.

Conformity may be critical to the success of many societies as it allows the group to work more efficiently and in tune in many circumstances. However it can lead individuals to a reduction in independent thinking and an acceptance of the ideals of a group, even if they are negative, incorrect or damaging in some ways.

Our mind isn’t as perfect as we would like to think.

Our biased views on ideas, situations and people may have been essential for survival in the early days of our species but today they can have effects that makes us dismissive and judgemental.

However if we begin to notice our biased reactions to things and constantly challenge our own beliefs we will be more likely to find solutions, gain an understanding and improve society whilst avoiding playing a pawn in someone else's game.

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